Friday, December 24, 2010


Our office Christmas Party was Thursday, ending the work week before Christmas. Everyone was supposed to bring a food contribution. It has been hard to get in the Christmas mood here, being away from family and it being so warm (it feels almost unnatural to be sweating in December) so I decided what I needed to help me feel the season was to do some holiday baking. My language teacher, Bebet, has an oven and she agreed to let me do my baking there. I decided to make sugar cookies and magic bars.

When I arrived to Bebet’s house there was another visitor already there. Her name is Waning and she is a manogluy-a, a type of local healer. There are many types of local healers, referred to as kwak-doctors (seriously that is what they are called). This particular healer uses ginger and so is therefore called a manogluy-a, “manog” meaning “one who gives a service or aid” and “luy-a” which means ginger.

Waning was there to attend to Bebet’s daughter, Sam, who has been sick with fever for some time. Modern medicine was not doing much so Bebet said she called on Waning as a last sort of effort. There were a variety of leaves wrapped on Sam’s head using a bandana, and Waning was rubbing a piece of ginger all over her and talking fast.

I told Bebet I have always wanted to meet a native healer. She asked me if there was any ailment that I would like to have Waning look at while she was there. I have a past of back problems, stemming from mild scoliosis and, what I have been told, a “bulging disc”, whatever that means. Doctors tell me I just need physical therapy. But here I was in the presence of a native healer in the Philippines; why not get a second opinion?

So Waning asked me to take the piece of ginger and hold it in my hand. After doing so, she took the ginger from me and began to rub it all over me, just as I had seen her do to Sam. Then she took the ginger and whispered to it for a while. I could not understand what she was saying, and Bebet told me she was speaking Kinaria, which is a another dialect of Hiligaynon.

Then Waning told me (through Bebet’s interpretation) that my back aches were due to “bad air being trapped” in my muscles. I asked her what causes this and she told me that it is due to imbalance, or as we know it, stress. She said I didn’t need another healer, that what I needed was meditation and a good back massage. Then she proceeded to massage my back and rub menthol oil on it. When she was through, my back felt much better!

After my great massage from the manogluy-a, it was time to get baking! Heart, Bebet’s other daughter, was my assistant baker. She was so interested in learning how to bake and had a real knack for it so I let her take over a lot of the mixing and adding and just helped her to follow the recipes. She found some cookie cutters in the back of the cupboard and we made heart and star-shaped Christmas cookies. Then we dyed red and green frosting. Heart really enjoyed decorating the cookies for Christmas. We also made magic bars, with a few substitutions since some of the ingredients were hard to find, including using Guimaras grown cashew nuts instead of peanuts, still very delicious!  

It was fun to share the tradition of holiday baking and to learn about some of the native local healers here in the Philippines. Now my back feels great and my holiday treats were a hit at the office Christmas party!

That's all for now. I wish everyone Happy Holidays and  a Happy New Year!

Malipayon nga Paskwa!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pawikan Release!

As I have mentioned before, there is a Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center in one of the coastal barangays of Jordan. Since I have been here, there have been eight turtles being kept there, only two of which were actually in need of rehabilitation. So I have been talking a lot with my counterpart, Bebot, about having a sea turtle (pawikan) release. And of course he added that we should make an event out of it. So this past Tuesday we had our “Sea Turtle Tagging and Release into the Wild” event.

Originally we only had three tags so we tagged three turtles in preparation. However through a fellow PCV, I was able to make a contact at SEAFDEC, which is a fisheries research center. There is a SEAFDEC facility in Iloilo and in Nueva Volencia, Guimaras. My new friend at SEAFDEC not only was planning on coming to our sea turtles release event, but she was also going to bring a turtle to release and additional tags. So we were able to tag two more turtles for release!

I had invited the other PCVs on the island to come and most of them were able to attend. It was a busy morning, boating people from the turtle rehab center to the beach where the release was going to happen and tagging the two additional turtles. The turnout was really great! In addition to my fellow PCVs, co-workers from my office, and my new SEAFDEC friend, also in attendance were the Governor of Guimaras, Jordan Mayor, a group of local residents and fishermen, and an American ex-pat living on the island. There was also media present and we ended up on two local news channels later that evening! One showed a clip of me and the governor releasing turtles on the beach.

Bebot had also convinced me that I should MC the event. So in addition to introducing all of our guest and speakers, I also gave a short speech about the turtles being endangered and how great it was that Jordan was helping in the tagging and releasing of this animal… all in Ilonggo! Luckily I had practiced that morning with my tita (aunt) and timbong (house help). They made sure to correct me so that when I was talking about the day’s activities, I said ‘an activity like this’ instead of ‘an activity monkey this’. Both words are spelled “amo” but pronounced with different emphasis. I am SO glad I didn’t say monkey!
The morning finished on schedule even though we started an hour late, and we were able to release 6 tagged sea turtles to the sea!
Getting ready to tag the turtles.

Now turtle gets a little "piercing" for her tag.

We were able to release 6 sea turtles: 2 green, 2 hawksbill, and 2 olive ridley.

The Governor of Guimaras releasing a turtle.

Me acting as MC for the event with media near by.

I think she is ready for the sea!

Also this week I was able to take part in cashew planting. Cashew (“kasoy”) is a major crop on Guimaras, along with Mangos, and the organization ”Kasoy for Life” planned a kasoy planting and wanted the agricultural office to help out. Although it is not really coastal resource management, since I work in the agricultural office, I thought it would be fun to help out. After about 17 of us piled into the office truck, we made our way to an inland barangay and went on a short hike through the forest with cashew seeds in our pockets. Using pre-measured bamboo sticks, we planted over 100 cashew seeds each 6 meters apart. My supervisor told me I should come back to the Philippines in 3 years to see the grown trees!
So this week was very productive for me! I helped in releasing 6 sea turtles and planting over 100 cashew trees. All in week’s work!
Getting our cashew seeds ready.

Planting kasoy!
Halong everyone!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

So You Think You Can Dance

As seems typical of the average PCVer, I have not posted much since I got to site.... 

Things are good though, the host family is nice and allows me to be independent. I have a language tutor, Sheila, who used to work for PC in the past, there is another PCVer who works in my office. We have become good friends, talking about our adjustment at site and supporting each other through it all. Things at the office are slow but that is to be expected considering I am still new here and it is now December and into the holiday season. So far I have met the Mayor, Vice-Mayor, SB/ Council members, the Governor and many FARMC (Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Management Council) members from my town and coastal barangays. I even have set the dates in January when I will be having community meetings with each coastal barangay. So I am well on my way at site, but I am also getting used to the much slower pace of the workday.

Most of my time spent in the office is socializing with my co-workers and the various people who stop by, we also eat a lot and have numerous snack times throughout the day. After lunch, we have an hour of rest time or we play cards, and we take turns checking our facebook on the one computer in the office with internet. Amidst all this work is done though. The Filipino culture is much more focused on the community and spending time with each other, strengthening community bonds. This is especially important for me since I am a foreigner and I am working with the community at a grass roots level.

A couple times a week I have field days which involves me meeting people in the community, visiting and assessing experimental fish ponds, and going to the marine sanctuary on the coast of Jordan. Last week I was able to ride around with the Bantay Dagat (type of local coast guard) and fully see and appreciate the beautiful coast of Jordan, Guimaras. It is truely breath-taking! The coast is lined in rocky cliffs alternatig with coves of white sand beaches. The water is a clear blue-green and you can see the lattice of coral reef below. Also along the coast are small rocky islands covered in thick jungle. Looking up along the trees of these islands you can see fruit bats and monkeys. This really is an island paradise!

Today I went to tag some of the sea turtles that are at the rehabilitation center in Lawi, a coastal barangay. This is in preparation for the release we will have next week!

I am also often invited to many fiestas and events. I take it as opportunities to be involved with the community I live in and be seen as part of the community. This week was the Fiesta of Bulan Bulan. Bulan Bulan is a sitio within my Barangay (sitios are smaller village-like areas within a Barangay). Many of them hold yearly festivals that usually correspond to the saint’s day for which the Sitio was named.

I still had to work during the day but was told I could leave for the lunch time fiesta and evening Disco Dirby. So at lunch time I left for the Bulan Bulan and had lunch at a community member’s house. It was typical Filipino fiesta food: rice, baked fish, pig lechon (roast), and spaghetti! We ate and moved from house to house meeting all the relatives. However that evening was the main event, the Disco Dirby, for which I was asked to be a judge for. Oh boy.

It turned out to be really fun. I got there early with Sheila, who was also going to be a judge. When we arrived they were finishing up the crowning of the new Mrs. Bulan Bulan (kind of like prom queen). The girls were all dressed in gowns and the newly crowned winner had a sparkling crown atop her head. As is customary, a member of the community was giving a speech about how wonderful the new Mrs. Bulan Bulan was, complimenting each of her features. This guy was a little long winded and as he was comparing her nose to some kind of pointed object (it was in Ilonggo so I lost some in translation) a little girl in a white dress walked out in the middle of the arena and in front of the stage. At first everyone just ignored her and kept the program going. Until she made her move. She proceeded to lift her dress, pull down her panties, and squat. Yes she was attempting to relieve herself right in the middle of Mrs. Bulan Bulan’s crowning. Among the audience’s laughing and gasping, the mother finally came to claim her child. Sheila just whispered to me, ‘well she is just a young girl, she is used to relieving herself whenever she needs to.’

Yes, in the Pines, small children squat alongside of the road and men of all ages stand to relieve themselves pretty much wherever they are. I probably see at least three men standing along side the road or water every day, with their backs to me and a stream between their legs. It is a sight you just have to get used to.
But back to the fiesta and dance contest.

It was really fun. There were three dance teams made up of all guys. They had matching dance costumes on and did real dance moves and lifts, and even had little skits in between. I felt as though I was on Randy Jackson’s “So you think you can dance” show. In the end we awarded our winner their cash prize. I will add it was a tough job being a judge. It was hard to grade and judge the teams when they all had worked hard on their routines and all were very entertaining. But there was one group above the others that really moved like a dance group in sync with each other and were simply the most entertaining, so they came out the winners. I wish I had pictures or video to share but my camera is still broken so its left to your imagination.

I hope to attend more fiestas like this one and am sure I will. However maybe next time I will remain in the audience and not at the judge’s table.

Halong from the Pines!